Delhi: Why that cheap hand sanitiser may prove costly
NEW DELHI: Cheaper versions of hand sanitisers that use methanol instead of isopropyl alcohol and don’t contain moisturising components are worrying skin specialists. Doctors report a growing incidence of skin infections, rashes and allergy due to the use of such sanitisers. Dermatologists contend that washing hands with a moisturising soap is better than using dubious sanitisers, especially those synthetically coloured.
Dr Rommel Tickoo, associate director, internal medicine department, Max Healthcare Hospital, said methanol-based sanitisers are also a problem in the United States. “Methanol is toxic both if ingestion and absorbed through skin and can adversely affect the central nervous system, causing headache, giddiness, vomiting, abdominal pain and drowsiness,” Tickoo said. He added that methanol gets converted into formaldehyde in the body, affecting the kidneys and, in some cases, causing blindness.
Around a week ago, the US Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory against using hand sanitiser with the “presence of methanol (wood alcohol), a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested”. Dr Harish Gupta, member of National Medical Commission and Delhi Medical Council, said research reports showed proven ability of 70% isopropyl alcohol to kill coronaviruses. “We do not have any research on methanol products and their efficacy,” he remarked. However, to increase the profit margins, many producers are putting public health at risk.
Dr Kabir Sardana, professor of dermatology at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, the number of people coming with skin allergies has increased. “Healthcare workers, patients and non-patients who use these products, especially those that are coloured, are reporting skin irritation,” he said. “The combination of excessive skin-drying soaps, alcohol sanitisers and hard water is causing hand eczema.” Walled city resident and BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor has drawn the attention of authorities to the storing and sale of methanol hand sanitisers in the old Delhi chemical markets. Kapoor told TOI, “The market is flooded with two kinds of spurious sanitisers. One has a little ethanol mixed with water, colour and essence, while the other has methanol. In Tilak Bazar, Sadar Bazar and a few small markets, people are openly making methanol and ethanol concentrates and selling them as hand sanitisers.”
Kapoor’s letter to the lieutenant governor pointed out that just four months ago, sanitisers had up to 49% isopropyl alcohol combined with glycerine, perfume, distilled water and some chemical substances. “Dettol’s 200ml bottle sold at Rs 265 in March, but the stress today is on cheap sanitisers,” Kapoor’s letter rued.